At a sentencing hearing on Tuesday morning, Judge Barbara Dickinson accepted a plea deal for a man accused of firing a gun at San Leandro police officers in the spring of 2020.
The deal, which will put Luracious Wilkerson behind bars for 16 years, was strongly opposed by the San Leandro Police Department, and raised fresh criticism of Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price’s new prosecutorial approach – this time from the defendant’s own lawyer.
Wilkerson’s attorney, Michael Cardoza, said his personal view is that Price’s approach is “putting society at risk.” But he said he would not hesitate to take advantage of her policies.
“You call the game, you call the rules, I’ll play,” Cardoza said in an interview. “She’s called the rules, and it’s my job to do the best job I can do for my client.”
A number of San Leandro officers were present at the hearing, including Sergeant Steve Cesaretti, who two weeks prior read a victim statement in front of the judge excoriating the plea deal and demanding a more severe sentence.
Wilkerson was charged with eight counts of attempted murder after allegedly firing at the officers while they were responding to reports of looting at San Leandro’s Bayfair Mall in 2020. Cesaretti had said that many officers suffered “stress injuries” and were forced to retire after the incident. The charges carried a maximum sentence of over 100 years. During his impact statement, Cesaretti accused the District Attorney’s office of, in so many words, siding with violent criminals.
“I did look at the entire case file, I want everyone to know that,” Judge Dickinson said at the East County Hall of Justice. “I’m comfortable with 16, and we’re going forward.”
The plea deal comes at a time when the newly elected Price is moving to reduce prison sentences. In a memo to the DA’s office last week, she issued a directive to pursue probation for many crimes and to stop using sentencing enhancements. It’s one of the first major policy changes from Price, who ran on a progressive agenda and has already shaken up her staff by firing or placing longtime prosecutors on leave.
Her stated agenda, along with other controversial sentences, have inspired criticism from the law enforcement community and victim’s families. Still, at least in Wilkerson’s case, regardless of the blowback, Alameda County courts will not stand in the way of Price’s new approach.
Cardoza said he tried to use Price’s new directive to scrub the gun enhancement from Wilkerson’s plea deal. That would have brought his sentence down from sixteen to 6 years–a far cry from the 30 years that the previous DA Nancy O’Malley had offered.
In a prior hearing, he asked the Deputy District Attorney to run the deal “back up the food chain” for review. The DA’s office ultimately decided not to renegotiate the plea deal.
But regardless of Cardoza’s efforts in this case, he described Price as an “idealogue” who had, in her short time in office, already begun “destroying what was once a well respected office.”
“She keeps saying the people of Alameda County gave her the directive to do this,” Cardoza said. “I shake my head and say had they known what you were going to do, they would not have approved.”
The District Attorney’s office did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
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